The Way International does NOT hold a copyright to the Sunday Night Service tapes and Tape of the Month tapes by Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille. In fact, it would appear that these tapes were placed in the public domain by Dr. Wierwille and/or the Way International at the time they were distributed due to the fact that there was no copyright symbol placed on any of the tapes. In 1988 Congress passed the Berne Convention Implementation Act, Pub.L. 100-568, 102 Stat. 2853-54 (Oct. 31, 1988) which eliminated the notice requirement completely for all works first published after March 1, 1989. However, prior to that Act the copyright issue would be controlled by the Copyright Act of 1909 (the '1909 Act')." Under the 1909 Act and prior to March 1, 1989, the Copyright Act required that each copy of a work distributed to the public be marked with a copyright notice." TransWestern Pub. Co. LP v. Multimedia Marketing Associates, Inc., 133 F.3d 773, 782 (10th Cir. 1998). Furthermore, "Failure to do so would inject the work into the public domain." Id. However, the Way International, by failing to adhere to the strict statutory formalities-- i.e., the copyright notice requirement - caused all of the works at issue (teachings by Dr. Wierwille) to be passed into the "Public Domain." "Once a work has passed into the public domain as a result of failure to provide adequate notice of copyright, it may freely be copied." Allied Mktg. Group, Inc. v. CDL Mktg., Inc., 878 F.2d 806, 810 (5th Cir. 1989).
This indicia requirement in the Copyright Act was not amended until the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, which became effective March 1, 1989. Id. It was not until the Berne Convention amendments that the copyright notice became optional rather than mandatory. Id. See also 17 U.S.C. § 401(a); Norma Ribbon & Trimming, Inc. v. Little, 51 F.3d 45 (5th Cir. 1995). Since Dr. Wierwille passed away in 1985, all of the teachings at issue were produced prior to the Berne Convention Implementation Act and were required to have a copyright notice on each and every tape distributed in order for the copyright protection to be valid.
Prior to March 1, 1989, ownership of a valid copyright is established by proving the originality and copyrightability of the material and compliance with the statutory formalities (i.e. - having a copyright notice displayed on each work). Id. See also Allied Mktg. Group, Inc. v. CDL Mktg., Inc., 878 F.2d 806, 810 (5th Cir. 1989); Apple Barrel Prods., Inc. v. Beard, 730 F.2d 384, 387 (5th Cir. 1984). Only after the Plaintiff meets their burden pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 410(c) does a defendant have the burden of overcoming it. Autoskill, 994 F.2d at 1487. Accord Williams Electronics, Inc. v. Artic International, Inc., 685 F.2d 870, 873 (3d Cir. 1982)
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